Whitaker, Brian 1947–
Whitaker, Brian 1947–
Born June 13, 1947. Education: Westminster University, obtained degree.
Journalist. Guardian, London, England, staff member, 1987—, Middle East editor, 1999-2007, "Comment Is Free" editor, 2007—;Al-Bab, founder and editor, 1998—.
Brian Whitaker is a journalist and longtime editor for the London Guardian. Having earned a degree in Arabic from Westminster University, Whitaker also founded Al-Bab, a Web site intended to serve as a portal for non-Arabs to learn about Arab culture and the Middle East in general. Originally the site focused on Yemen while Whitaker was concurrently writing a thesis on Yemeni politics. He decided to make available online the documents from his accumulation of research on Yemen to share his knowledge with others. After receiving numerous requests by visitors to expand his Web site model to other Arab countries, he did so. By 1999 Whitaker was made Middle East editor of the Guardian, a position he held for seven years. During this time, he wrote articles on a variety of topics, including democracy and reform, gender and sexuality, media, prejudice, society and culture, religion, and Islamic militancy. He later was made editor of the Guardian 's "Comment Is Free" section.
In 2006 Whitaker published his first book,Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East. The account describes the sociocultural climate that creates a regionally unique set of difficulties for homosexuals in Arab countries. Whitaker includes many tragedies, including stories of individuals who were punished, beaten, killed, shamed, or disowned for their sexuality. Whitaker also discusses Islamic law and governmental control in addition to personal and familial relationship patterns that present obstacles for openness about homosexuality.
A contributor to the Iranian Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, & Transgender Organization Web site noted that "to his credit, Whitaker does not shy away from but rather dives into the murky questions surrounding homosexuality in the Middle East." In a Democratiya Web site review, Alexandra Simonon remarked: "The aspect of Unspeakable Love that readers might find disappointing is the little attention to, and perhaps the lack of interest he shows in, the plight of Arab and Muslim lesbians." Simonon concluded, however: "If the great appeal of this book lies in Whitaker's reportage, it is also valuable politically because it challenges the current climate of political relativism that wants to see homophobia as a religious or cultural issue rather than a political one. Whitaker argues for the universality of sexual rights and for liberty in the Middle East, and against the fashion of apologising for its illiberal climate." Writing for the Web site Qantara, Anne Françoise Weber also felt that the book was unbalanced with regard to gender but still found benefit in its publication, noting that "even if the situation of lesbians is rather less dealt with in the book than that of male homosexuals, Brian Whitaker has certainly made a significant contribution to this process of education." A contributor to Publishers Weekly commented that "while Whitaker's findings aren't conclusive, this is an illuminating book on an important topic." Tanner Brooks, writing in the Middle East Journal, described the book as "a detailed and eclectic account." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews concluded by calling Unspeakable Love a "strong, condensed, world-weary portrait infused with hope."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Al-Ahram(Cairo, Egypt), May 4-10, 2006, Khaled Diab, author interview.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2006, review of Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East, p. 896.
Middle East Journal, spring, 2007, Tanner Brooks, review of Unspeakable Love.
Publishers Weekly, September 18, 2006, review of Unspeakable Love, p. 50.
Tikkun, January 1, 2007, Cynthia Hoffman, review of Unspeakable Love, p. 74.
Al-Bab,http://www.al-bab.com/ (November 30, 2007), author profile.
Democratiya,http://www.democratiya.com/ (November 30, 2007) Alexandra Simonon, review of Unspeakable Love.
Guardian Unlimited Online,http://www.guardian.co.uk/ (November 30, 2007), author profile.
Iranian Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, & Transgender Organization Web site,http://www.homanla.org/ (November 30, 2007), review of Unspeakable Love.
Lotus in the Mud,http://lotusinthemud.typepad.com/ (November 30, 2007), author profile.
Qantara,http://www.qantara.de/ (July 21, 2006), Anne Françoise Weber, review of Unspeakable Love.